Monday, August 02, 2010

And Even More on POV

What I'm reading: Whisper of Warning, by Laura Griffin

Before we move on with today's topic, NOWHERE TO HIDE got a top rated review from Romance Junkies. It's gratifying to see that even though I'm outside the box with a romantic suspense, the reviewer not only recognized it as a mystery, but enjoyed it as well!

The Point of View chat at Savvy Writers last Thursday went very well—at least judging from the folks who emailed me afterward asking for my handout. Thanks all for the suggestions you gave here. I figured I might as well post the next installment, since the topic seemed to be of interest. One of the aspects that didn't lend itself to the chat format was taking a passage written in one POV and change it to another. This can be a good way to show where you're writing shaky POV.

In my handout, I quoted a passage from on of J.D. Robb's "In Death" books. Although Robb (who is really Nora Roberts) is often accused of "head hopping", in reality, she writes in the omniscient point of view. I gave some examples of the omniscient point of view, where there's an outside, all-knowing narrator telling the reader something the character can't know. These examples from last Thursday's post:

"If only she'd known what waited behind the door, she'd never have opened it."

"A melody she didn't recognize as Mozart came from the room."

"Outside, unbeknownst to him, the enemy was gathering its forces for an attack."

Here's the passage from Judgment in Death, by J.D. Robb, which appears to be 3rd person, but it actually omniscient (can you find the giveaway?).

"I've pretty much failed." Still with her head back, she closed her eyes and tried to recapture some of it. "I was doing okay with it on the drive home. I saw Mavis's billboard."

"Ah yes. Fairly spectacular."

"You didn't tell me about it."

"It just went up today. I figured you'd see it on your way home and though it would be a nice surprise."

"It was." And remembering brought her smile back. "I nearly clipped a glide-cart, and I was sitting there, grinning at it, about to call her, but I had a transmission come through."

"So work intruded."

"More or less. It was Webster." Because the smile was gone again, and she was scowling at the trees, she didn't notice the slight tension in Roarke's body. "Don Webster from Internal Affairs."

What happens to Point of View when you take this same passage and "translate" it directly into 1st person? It should be straightforward. Write the same thing, but use "I" instead of "she", right? If so, you'd get something like this:

"I've pretty much failed." Still with my head back, I closed my eyes and tried to recapture some of it. "I was doing okay with it on the drive home. I saw Mavis's billboard."

"Ah yes. Fairly spectacular."

"You didn't tell me about it."

"It just went up today. I figured you'd see it on your way home and though it would be a nice surprise."

"It was." And remembering brought my smile back. "I nearly clipped a glide-cart, and I was sitting there, grinning at it, about to call her, but I had a transmission come through."

"So work intruded."

"More or less. It was Webster." Because my smile was gone again, and I was scowling at the trees, I didn't notice the slight tension in Roarke's body. "Don Webster from Internal Affairs."

Where does the 1st person POV fall apart? In that last paragraph. Eve, who's supposed to be the POV character in this passage, can't "not notice" Roarke's tension.

Can you spot the POV errors in the following passage?

Mary entered the room. John thought she was the most amazing woman he'd ever seen. Mary walked past without seeing him. She went straight to the patio where the buffet was set up. Seeing trays heaped with caviar, her favorite delicacy, she picked up a plate and waited in line. The breeze ruffled the floral chiffon of her dress. She wondered if her long auburn hair would get mussed. No, she thought. She'd sprayed it with enough hairspray to withstand a hurricane. She scooped caviar onto her plate as John stepped into line behind her, a smile on his face. A tiny furrow appeared in her brow, and her green eyes narrowed.

Hope this was helpful. I'll post more later this week, including the POV problems in the last example. But tomorrow, you absolutely have to come back tomorrow for my special guest. I first met him at the Y in Orlando. He's not a writer, but he's got quite the story to tell.

15 comments:

Liz Flaherty said...

LOL. That last paragraph's pretty horrifying, isn't it?

This is so helpful to beginners. I've been sharing it with a lady in my writing group who's a beginner. Thank you!

Terry Odell said...

Liz, sometimes it's easier to see what's wrong with an over the top example. The nuances can come later. Thanks for stopping by.

Carol Kilgore said...

Thanks for all you do to help writers.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Nice tips! Am tweeting. :)

Linda Poitevin said...

Excellent example of one of my pet peeves, Terry! =)

Linda

Terry Odell said...

Carol - my pleasure. Must hearken back to my teaching days.

Elizabeth - thanks - you know how I value your tweets

Linda - glad it was helpful.

Jemi Fraser said...

Another great post - I love the In Death series - she does omni so well :)

Terry Odell said...

Jemi - I think my box of Robb's books was the only one I actually labeled when I packed to move. The rest just said, "books" or "den books" or "office books." :-)

Sheila Deeth said...

Nicely done. You pick a good example. Omni's something I struggle with (so maybe I'll stick to first and third for now - I just got my "first" ever eBook released by Gypsy Shadow and it's in first).

I love that you labeled Robb's books. My labeled box was Star Trek when we moved.

Terry Odell said...

Sheila, there's not a lot of omni these days, so I wouldn't worry much about having problems with it. I used to have a kazillion Star Trek books, but did manage to part with them.Too many different series to keep track of.

Maryann Miller said...

These are great concrete examples of POV errors. If you are interested, you could do a couple of guest pieces for The Blood Red Pencil blog on this topic. We have covered POV before, but it is always so good to have fresh examples.

Terry Odell said...

Maryann, I'd be happy to. Email me and let me know more.

Terry Stonecrop said...

Congratulations on the review!

And you are a great teacher. Thanks for these and all the other wisdom you share.

cassandrajade said...

Echoing the congraulations on the review.

Thanks for the great examples of POV and POV errors. Very helpful reminders.

Terry Odell said...

Cassandra - thanks, and you're welcome!